chapter  7
38 Pages

Temper Tantrums in Young Children

WithDorothy Einon, Michael Potegal

By the time a child is 7 months old and capable of intentional communication (Greenspan & Greenspan, 1985), most parents recognize that he or she is sometimes angry (Sroufe, 1979). By 18 months, when the child is better able to understand what others want and feel, he or she may also know how to make his or her parents and siblings angry (Greenspan & Greenspan, 1985). No one who has lived through their child's "Terrible twos" doubts that children of this age engage in, and induce, conflict. Parents have told us that around this age their children seek to augment conflict and anger; they become deliberately contrary and insist on doing things they know are forbidden. They invite frustration, demanding "Me do it" when they know from experience that the task is too difficult. And when their wishes are denied by parents or they fail at the task, they have a tantrum. From the parents' perspective, tantrums present a challenge with which they must cope (Chamberlin, 1974).